The writer, working with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, saw Hollywood as a way to make cash to support her art.
They stole it, diagramed how its story was pieced together, and resolved that unlike that drunken louse — and unlike the drunks they admired, such as Dorothy Parker and F.
But screenwriting was supposed to afford her the freedom to write serious art, not waste her time on endless unpaid draft revisions.
Worse still were the movies they didn’t write.
The irony is that the more the couple mocked Hollywood in essays, the higher their script fees rose.
It’s hard to argue that Didion and Dunne’s films are palpably them any more than one can touch an actor onscreen as he coils his tongue around Didion’s diction.
With James Mill’s heroin-addled paperback “The Panic in Needle Park,” Didion explained, “It just immediately said movie to me.” The film, with its mediocre box office receipts, served as a launching pad for the star Al Pacino’s career, but didn’t do much for hers.
They just wanted to go with musicians on the road, where their research included talking to groupies about injecting adrenaline and following Led Zeppelin to Cleveland, where they amused themselves by calling a for-a-good-time number scrawled on the dressing-room wall.
After all, not only did she buy her wedding dress at Ransohoff’s, the same shop where Jimmy Stewart made over Kim Novak, she and Dunne even got married at Mission San Juan Bautista under the bell tower where Novak leapt to her death.
There was only one reason Didion and Dunne signed on to adapt a biography of the NBC News anchor Jessica Savitch, who died in a car accident in 1983 shortly after broadcasting a segment in which she appeared intoxicated: They needed the Writers Guild health insurance.
Dunne thanks Didion for not laughing when his testicles fell out of his swimsuit as a boy; Didion confesses to him that stumbling across a 5-year-old girl on LSD, an encounter that led to one of the darkest scenes in her book “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” gave her a thrill.